Jealous Journalists Are Trying to Make a Scandal Out of a Scoop

From a Wall Street Journal commentary by James Taranto headlined “Our Samuel Alito Scoop Is No Scandal”:

Jealous journalists are trying to make a scandal out of a scoop. Last week on these pages David Rivkin and I published our second Weekend Interview with Justice Samuel Alito. Like the first one, in April, it both made news and drove the conformist press corps to hysterics.

Along with the usual heckling, Justice Alito’s detractors zeroed in on a sentence toward the end of the piece. “So one of the lawyers in a major Supreme Court tax case . . . just sat with a sitting justice for four hours?” ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger, who oversees the site’s tediously antagonistic coverage of the justices, tweeted Friday. Yes, that’s true, and Mr. Eisinger knew it because the article disclosed it. Mr. Rivkin—an appellate lawyer with a sideline as a prolific freelance writer—represents the appellants in Moore v. U.S., which the court has agreed to hear in the 2023-24 term.

In a column published Sunday, the Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus went further. She observed correctly that “justices are going to have preexisting relationships with lawyers who appear before them—that’s inevitable.” But she also asserted that “it’s not a good look when one litigant has special access to a justice.”

In fact, litigants Charles and Kathleen Moore have no “special access” to Justice Alito, and Ms. Marcus’s accusation is scurrilous. It would have been an act of serious professional misconduct for Mr. Rivkin and Justice Alito to discuss the Moores’ case, and it never came up in the interview. Mr. Rivkin and I didn’t ask about pending cases at all, save for a glancing reference to Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, in which the court will reconsider Chevron v. NRDC (1984). Justice Alito responded only with a general observation about precedent.

The article mentioned Moore in a paragraph listing some of the major cases on the court’s fall docket, which I wrote while preparing the article three weeks after our July meeting with Justice Alito. We cited Mr. Rivkin’s involvement in the interest of full disclosure—which shows how easily disclosure can become a mug’s game. Mr. Rivkin was transparent with our readers about his pending business before the court. The thanks he gets is that Mr. Eisinger, Ms. Marcus and others are acting as if he has something to hide.

Ms. Marcus’s column also reveals the vacuousness of partisan demands for “ethical” standards. In presuming to judge Justice Alito’s conduct, she appeals to no principle or standard, only her own olfactory senses. She admits there’s nothing wrong when justices have “relationships” with members of the Supreme Court Bar—but then proclaims that this relationship doesn’t “smell right” to her. She professes that “I’m all for justices speaking and writing publicly” but she deems it “unseemly and unsettling” that Justice Alito would do so for the Journal rather than the many outlets that are openly hostile to him.

Last week Ms. Marcus participated in an online Post symposium of “left-leaning columnists” about Joe Biden’s 2024 campaign. “From my point of view,” she wrote, “the risk to the Supreme Court alone is enough to justify doing whatever it takes to maximize the chance of a Democrat being elected (which means: Biden, Biden, Biden).”

That isn’t a rat that Ruth Marcus smells. It’s her own stinking partisanship.

James Taranto is the Wall Street Journal’s editorial features editor.

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